Figuring out what career you want to pursue can be one of the most difficult decisions you make during law school. There are myriad options available to JD, MSL, MPP, and MPA graduates; so how do you choose the right career path for you? How do you know that you’ll truly enjoy the profession you choose to pursue without having any firsthand experience? If you’re the type of person that wants to use your legal expertise to protect the American people, perhaps you’ll find your calling at the FBI.
Special Agent Justin Lee is a 2004 McGeorge alum currently working in Cyber Squad at the FBI Sacramento Field Office, and has been with the Bureau since 2005. While the mission of the FBI (“To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States”) is enough to make anyone proud of the work they do, Lee also notes that his career has had very positive impacts on his personal life, too. Not only did he meet his wife on the job (while they both worked in the FBI San Francisco Field Office), but he also has time to do things that he is passionate about outside of work – such as coaching soccer, basketball and baseball for his kids, acting as a Cub Scout den leader, and being able to take time off to visit his family’s favorite vacation spot in Hawaii. As much as the FBI values hard work and a commitment to justice, it also promotes a healthy work-life balance for all employees.
Agent Lee admitted that although he had never considered joining the FBI prior to enrolling in law school, the excitement of the job – coupled with encouragement from his supervisor (former FBI Special Agent and current Sacramento County Superior Court judge, Hon. Delbert Oros) during an internship with the Sacramento County DA’s Office – drew him in nonetheless. “Being an FBI Agent is very rewarding and every day is different… Everyone in the FBI works hard to keep our nation safe and to become part of something bigger than themselves,” he explained. With a JD nearly in his grasp in 2003, Agent Lee knew that he could employ his legal knowledge outside of the traditional lawyering career path.
Having a JD doesn’t limit your career opportunities to practicing law in a courtroom or tracking billable hours. Taking legal concepts from the classroom and applying them to how the criminal justice system operates opens the door to hundreds of other law-related careers. When examining a job applicant’s qualifications, the FBI gives more weight to the individual’s alignment with the Bureau’s defined Core Competencies than to a specific academic experience – such as particular externships or legal courses. In fact, Agent Lee says that even within cyber investigations it’s not necessary to have a technical background because much of the investigative techniques used by law enforcement work well in both cyber and non-cyber cases. His legal education has provided him “a solid background and the skills to incorporate better logic and analysis into [his] writing… [as well as] presentation and oral advocacy skills”, which lends itself to more efficient collaborations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and construction of affidavits. A combination of life experience, legal knowledge, and an advanced degree (whether it’s a JD, MPA, MPP, or MSL) can put you on the short list of qualified applicants for most entry-level FBI positions.
If you think your goals and drive align with the FBI, we encourage you to visit their online job board and explore the opportunities available. Lee recommends all interested applicants apply as soon as possible due to the extensive background check and testing required before entering the FBI Academy, noting from his own experience that it was “nearly two years between the time [he] applied and when [he] stepped foot into the FBI Academy”. Be sure to review the FBI’s eligibility requirements to ensure you meet the minimum standards, as well as the Special Agent Selection Process.
Once you’ve identified positions that fit your interests, don’t forget to schedule an appointment with a CDO career advisor to review your application materials by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.